Friday, June 17, 2005

Nanotech insider information

Pssst ... Hey you. Yeah, you. Ya wanna hot nano tip? Forget about nanotechnology "trade shows," stock-chart Bollinger Bands or the price of coal in China. Pay attention to where the real deals are being made between companies that produce nanotechnology products and processes, and the companies that can use them. The item below is just one example. Most of the rest of the stuff you read about nanotech "products" about to change the world is a dog-and-pony show. Simple.

Does Your Organization Need Help Using Nanoparticles in Product Development and Formulation? (NineSigma)

    Program Objective: NineSigma, representing Nanogate Advanced Materials (NAM) is seeking proposals for joint development projects exploiting NAM’s unique capabilities and expertise in product development using nanoparticles. NAM seeks partners for joint development of final product formulations or systems using nanoparticle technology. More here
How's NanoBusiness?
From Wilkes-Barre to Wolfe
'Crain's-ing' my neck to see the hype


Anonymous said...

Howard, this is great advice. Except the example you're using is pure dog-and-pony show: announcing that you're seeking partners does not even remotely constitute a "real deal," even if you hire a consultancy to do it for you.

Howard Lovy said...

Yeah, you're right. This particular example was lame, since it's a shot in the dark by Nanogate Advanced Materials. I have seen better examples via NineSigma, though. It's really up to the nanotech company to educate potential partners about what it is nano can do for them, rather than sit back and wait for customers to submit proposals. But this statement might be unfair to Nanogate, since I have not looked into what it's doing to educate potential partners. I do know that this company has a great deal going for it, though. It's a partnership between Nanogate, which provides the nanotubes for the often-cited Babolat tennis rackets, and environment-conscious chemicals innovator Air Products.

My main point, lost in the lame example, is that just because nanotech companies claim to be producing something entirely new -- and in some cases that's even true -- the same old rules apply when evaluating a nanotech company's chances of making it big. Are they talking only to other nanotech companies and making pronouncements about their great potential to change the paradigm outside the box and other such cliches, or are they quietly educating the industries and customers they want to infiltrate and attract? That's why some of the best "nanotech" companies out there are ones that you had no idea existed, or hadn't a clue that what they're doing could be called nanotech. Look at their partnerships. Sneak a peak at the CEO's appointment calendar. Is he or she traveling around to nanotech conferences and preaching to the converted? Are they quoted a great deal in the press talking about their big bright green nano machine? Or are they spending their time educating key decision-makers, partners and potential customers about what their brand of nanotech will do to enhance their lives or grow their business.

And for the portion of my readership that believes in molecular manufacturing and therefore thinks these old rules will become irrelevant in this new nano age, they need to be paying attention to this, too. In fact, more so. Your desktop assembler is going to scare the bejesus out of people. What sort of entrenched industry are you going to attempt to uproot first? What culture are you going to jolt so badly that you're going to need to "replicate" some tar-and-feather remover on the run?

So, yeah. Still the same simple rules. Who really needs your nanostuff? Find them, convince them. Sell it to them.

Keith Blakely said...

Right you are, Howard. It's the age old story - technology push versus market pull. And market pull companies ALWAYS win. Find the need, fill the need. Early stage companies almost always distinguish themselves on the basis of technology, which is fine. But unless they have taken the time to understand whether or not the market NEEDS their new material, capability, or product, they have years to decades of challenging times ahead. Believe me, I know of what I speak! My first start-up could produce submicron non-oxide ceramic powders via a new process that was dramatically cheaper than any other approach. The problem was - no one needed those materials at that time. It wasn't for another ten years that fabricators and designers were ready to integrate those materials into their products and devices. The same will be true of many nanomaterials and nanotechnology products. While they may be technically innovative, cutting edge, and capable of great things, if the market isn't ready, it isn't a business.

On a related note, we have seen the Nine Sigma postings and heard mixed reviews from folks who respond to these. I would be interested in the experience of other Lovy blog readers. The one complaint I have heard is that the requests imply that the NineSigma client has a need, money to spend, and market pull - and in at least one case that I know of, the client was just using NineSigma to do some free market research and find out what was out there - no budget for R&D on that topic, no immediate need, etc. I don't know if that is typical or atypical and would be curious to hear from others. Thanks.